Sunday, August 24, 2014
I just got back from the grocery store, and I had to share my experience.
An eight-year-old boy stood beside me, without looking at me, and talked to me at length about refrigerators. Yup, refrigerators. A few minutes later, I could hear the frantic cries from a couple calling their child. When his parents happened upon him, he immediately ran for the exit doors. His parents called for anyone to stop him. I hopped in front of the exit and asked him what he thought of stainless steel refrigerators. He stopped dead in his tracks and walked with me back to his parents, explaining that while stainless steel refrigerators are modern and visually pleasing, they are difficult to polish.
His mother, with tears in her eyes, reminded her son to use his words to express when he needed to exit a situation. His father shook my hand and asked if I knew someone with an autism spectrum disorder, and I explained that I'm an emotional support teacher and love several kiddos with ASD. The father shared that they have been working with a therapist to help their son reduce eloping (i.e., leaving a situation) in place of functional communication. He told me that people usually try to grab and scold his son when he bolts for the exits, which triggers a storm.
Then, a nearby man said to his wife, "If I ever acted like that in the store, my father would have kicked my ***. That's why I was never a brat." (Don't tell anyone, but I wanted to kick that man's you-know-what.) He said it a little too loudly, like he wanted us to hear him-- maybe to teach the parents a lesson? The parents had already tried that approach, along with many others, but their son had autism. He wasn't a brat.
There aren't physical characteristics associated with autism spectrum disorders, executive functioning needs, processing needs, dyslexia, dysgraphia, depression, mood disorders, or anxiety, so these can be considered invisible disabilities. These children may "appear" to have neuro-typical functioning, and thus, people expect them to behave in a neuro-typical manner.
Would you ever say, "Just walk already! It's not that hard!" to someone with paralysis? How 'bout, "Just look already! You can see if you try!" to someone with blindness? Would you punish someone for not being able to hear? Of course not. So why do we do it to kids with invisible disabilities?
Just sayin'. :)